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Social isolation and guns are not a good mix

Sociologist offers tips to minimize risk during coronavirus social distancing

  • Created: March 17, 2020

News outlets are reporting sharp increases in firearm purchases amid the coronavirus outbreak, with a 36 percent increase in background checks in February 2020 compared to February 2019.

Sociologist Maryann Mason, an associate professor of emergency medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, can speak about the dangers of firearm ownership when combined with social isolation and provide tips on how to minimize risk during this period of coronavirus-related social distancing. 

Mason leads violence and injury research at Feinberg’s Buehler Center for Health Policy and Economics at the Institute for Public Health. Media can contact Kristin Samuelson at ksamuelson@northwestern.edu or call 847-769-6596 (mobile) to schedule an interview with Mason. 

Quotes from Mason:

“Research on firearm ownership has established a powerful link between firearm ownership and suicide. The combination of increased firearm ownership and physical distancing necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic may create a dangerous situation for members of our communities. Youth are at particular risk for firearm suicide when firearms are present at home, and with younger children not in school, the risk of accidental firearm shootings can increase as well. 

“Here are some things we can do to minimize this risk during this time:

“Safe storage. All firearms should be stored locked and unloaded in a secure location such as a gun safe or lock box. Access to lock combinations/keys should be closely guarded.  Ammunition should be stored separately in a locked container, again with access to lock combinations/keys closely guarded.

“Practice healthy habits:

  • Connect with others through virtual means: video chats, group events through video technology
  • Do something for someone else. For example, check in (virtually) on others you know who might be struggling with physical distancing
  • Acknowledge positive events. This can uplift feelings of well-being
  • Eat a healthy diet limiting sugar and processed foods and overeating
  • Limit alcohol and other recreational drugs
  • Exercise. There are many virtual workouts available, try a new one. Create a workout video share group with friends
  • Seek mental health assistance if you need to. Many providers are utilizing telemedicine or video sessions.  Many insurers are making adjustments and covering these services during this time
  • Maintain any medications you are currently taking. Now is not the time to stop taking a prescribed medication.”